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Shutdown a setback for disability claims backlog

With the government shutdown having come to an end, things are on their way to getting back to normal for federal programs that were put on hold, including Social Security disability and the Veterans Administration. As advocates for disabled veterans have pointed out, though, the shutdown was not without its costs.

One of the results of the shutdown is that the backlog of claims the agency had been working on tackling suffered 16 days of setback. While that doesn’t sound like a lot, it is enough to cause concern among veterans advocates. While new veteran’s disability claims were still being processed during the shutdown, processing of appeals was put on temporary hold. 

That decision was criticized by advocates, who pointed out that doing so gave the message that veterans who already have claims in the system do not have as much priority as veterans with newer claims. In some cases, advocates point out, claims have been awaiting a decision for up to 15 years. Needless to say, that is unacceptable, but unfortunately it is the case.

According to VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, the agency will likely have the backlog tackled by 2015. It has been acknowledged that the shutdown would increase the backlog, but it hasn’t been officially confirmed yet.

For veterans submitting disability claims, the prospect of a long waiting period is daunting. Waiting time can, in some cases, be shortened by ensuring that a thorough application is submitted. This is one reason it can be good to work with an advocate familiar with the claims process.  

Source: MSNBC, “Shutdown means ‘lost ground’ for disabled veterans benefits,” Justin Sullivan, October 18, 2013. 

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